By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President
We are surrounded by heroes every day, ordinary people doing extraordinary work to help others, especially now in the midst of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Who are « first responders,” also referred to as « emergency personnel »? They are the ambulance paramedics, police officers, and firefighters who have first contact with patients in hazardous situations daily, not just during the current virus outbreak. They often put their own lives in danger to protect others.
Their courage is on display now more than ever with personal protective equipment in short supply and what is available is often inadequate for those with prolonged exposure to infected patients. Many have contracted COVID-19 themselves. First responders also worry about endangering their own families, self-quarantining in their homes or staying in temporary makeshift accommodations apart from loved ones. It takes tremendous courage and self-sacrifice to be a first responder.
Training is essential to a first responder because he or she must act quickly and decisively. Communicating with the patient is vital in assessing the immediate problem and what needs to be done. What happens when the patient is an older adult and cannot communicate effectively due to age-related cognitive loss? Last year, VTI published a training manual designed specifically for first responders. The manual is intended to help first responders better identify and deal with behaviors by older people living with cognitive decline (not mental illness).
One principle of Validation is: « All behavior has meaning; there is a reason for it, even if we can’t figure it out. » By learning to assess maloriented or disoriented behaviors, first responders are able to apply Validation techniques to communicate and build an empathetic, person-centered relationship.
VTI is currently seeking partnerships with state and local governments to offer training in Validation for first responders. A big thank you this week to first responders and also frontline medical personnel in hospital emergency rooms who are dedicated to the health and safety of all of us, often at great personal sacrifice.